He served as a supervising physician at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and worked long hours to prevent the spread of the pandemic in his beloved city, says his only son, Cyril.
Toni, as family and friends knew her, was born on August 24, 1951 in Queens, New York. She attended St. Pascal Baylon School in Queens and graduated in 1968, and then studied at Fisk University in Nashville, where she earned her college degree in 1972.
She briefly worked at Harlem Hospital, where she met her husband, Dr. Francis Akita, in 1981, when they were both interns in pediatrics. The couple was married for almost 35 years.
“My mother, Dr. Antoinette Akita, was a selfless and loving mother and she enjoyed what she did,” Cyril told CNN.
Pediatrics and immunology were two of her passions, which led her to briefly open a private allergy and immunology practice in the late 1980s.
In 1992, he joined the New York City Department of Health, a job he held until his retirement in 2015.
“When she smiled, it made you smile. When you were depressed, it made you feel better,” Dr. Akita’s daughter-in-law, Jamelia, told CNN. “Her personality has just lit up the world.”
Dr. Akita had been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, according to her son.
She was admitted to North Shore Hospital on Long Island, New York, when she started having respiratory problems.
There, she tested positive for the coronavirus. Her husband, as well as the nurses who administered her at home, also tested positive.
Dr. Akita’s husband recovered from the coronavirus and is still practicing in the neonatal unit at Columbia University.
“One of the nurses there was kind enough to leave FaceTime with me almost every day until she passed away. We pray together,” said Dr. Akita’s son, Cyril.
Dr. Akita died on April 1. Her family planned a small funeral after her death, as well as a large Zoom funeral with more than 200 participants.
“I miss her stupidity, her love of singing and her hugs, and I think what I’m going to miss the most, I really would have loved for her to be there while raising my daughter,” Cyril said.
And in memory of his mother, Cyril tells CNN that Dr. Akita’s first initial will be part of her son’s middle name.